Come face to face with a sector driven by innovation

Doing business face to face has never been more important as it is today,” so says Rudi Blackett, SDUK portfolio director, as he and his team prepare to open the doors of the 2019 edition of Sign & Digital UK.

“It is so crucial to build that relationship with your suppliers and spend quality time with them to get the best possible advice on your next investment.”

Need to know

When 2-4 April

Where NEC, Birmingham (Halls 3 and 3A)

Opening times 2 & 3 April: 10:00-17:00; 4 April: 10:00-16:30

Show features Software Theatres (Adobe, Corel and Cadlink Technology Showcase); Hexis Battle Wrap competition; Décor Live; textile printing and upholstery demo

New for 2019 Signmakers’ Workshop; ArtSystems will host daily demos on how to make your retail and POS projects more effective

Registration Free


There will be more than 185 exhibitors and brands at this year’s show, more than 40 of which are new exhibitors who will be bringing new products and adding a fresh perspective, he adds. “We’ve also seen an increase in international exhibitors this year which is great.”

Last year’s tally of visitors was around 5,300 and Blackett expects to see more than that filling the aisles this year. This popular show has a broad appeal that draws in visitors from a wide range of sectors, not just sign-making, digital and commercial printing, but also event build, local authorities, education, lifestyle and leisure, retail, transport and more. 

The tagline for this year’s show is ‘The face of innovation’ and there will certainly be plenty of new developments to check out. Blackett says there will be more than 50 product launches and updates, citing the “battle of the flatbeds” as one exciting technology area to watch, with new machines from a number of manufacturers on show alongside established models.

“There will also be a wide range of print, finishing, software and display product launches. Where previous shows focused more on output, for this show that trend continues but also the development of hardware is being celebrated,” he adds.

“The signage and digital print industry is always moving forwards at a pace. New technology and creative innovation drives the industry. There is no way you can allow your business to get left behind, which is why a visit to the show each year is so important.”

Commercial focus

However, while shows such as Sign & Digital are often perceived to be about technology, helping to build strong businesses is a key focus for SDUK. To this end, the guest speaker this year is renowned entrepreneur Sahar Hashemi OBE, most famous for founding Coffee Republic and Skinny Candy. Hashemi will deliver a keynote entitled ‘Anyone can do it – awakening the entrepreneur within’. 

Blackett says: “Essentially everyone attending is involved in some sort of business. The industry is always creating and innovating, and we think an experienced entrepreneur talking about their experiences in business will be a great addition to the show’s programme.

“The Main Stage Theatre will host a daily programme of presentations, chat show style interviews and lively panel debates. Topics include signage for getting into wide-format print, buildings, textile print, finishing, workflow, personalisation, retail, sustainability and more.”

Organisers say they are seeing a growing number of new businesses visiting SDUK that are entering the print market for the first time, and there are a range of features intended to encourage new entrants to the sector and bring them up to speed.

“If you are a commercial printer business looking at offering wide-format print, this is the event to attend. You will see the many products on offer being demonstrated and gain valuable advice at how best to add wide format to your business,” says Blackett. 

One such feature is the Signmakers’ Workshop (see boxout on facing page), which will see an entire shopfront being constructed and worked on during the show in a live setting. “It will demonstrate all the latest need-to-know signmaking tips and tricks, and at the end of each session there will be the opportunity to put questions to expert signmaker and host, Paul Hughes,” he says.

While UK business may still be frustrated over the lack of clarity around Brexit, Blackett points out that there is an opportunity to be grasped. “Many end-user companies are having to work harder to promote their businesses – retail being an example where creativity and innovation are key. Signage and print suppliers and installers can benefit from this activity.

“Consequently, the need for kit is there and some companies are taking advantage of this by leading the way delivering creative solutions and effective customer service.

“The future for Brexit is still uncertain. However, the industry will always look for the opportunities in any situation, and with its track record of innovation and technological advancement, I can see a positive future for our industry,” he says. 

He stresses the importance of making time to ask the experts on each stand “about new products, new revenue streams and how to maximise the return from your business”. 

As to what the big trends will be this year, alongside the ‘battle of the flatbeds’, Blackett cites personalisation, textile print and finishing, and wall decor. The Demonstrations programme at the show will include Décor Live with Antalis; Retail is Detail with Art Systems, HP and Summa; and the Upholstery Demo with YPS and TV’s Anthony Devine. 

“Adobe, Corel and Signlab theatres return and there will be many more demonstrations on stands. To celebrate the fantastic graphic output that the industry uses, there will be a new image gallery hosted by Richard Osbourne photography,” Blackett adds.

Stand highlights

The show will host the first UK showing of Canon’s (E10) new Océ Arizona 1300 flatbeds. The new models are aimed at customers ready to upgrade from their first flatbed or hybrid system to something with higher productivity and print quality.

Canon UK head of graphics and communications business groups Wayne Barlow said: “We have high ambitions for this product and an ongoing R&D programme, supported with market research.”

Colyer Repropoint (M2) will have an interesting piece of kit on its stand: the Xerox C60/C70WPs-Multiverse laser printer. These are Xerox laser printers that have been adapted by Italian company MC System to allow the printing of gold, silver and white plus special transparent and fluorescent colours out of the traditional colour space, thanks to special patented, user-replaceable kits at relatively low cost. 

Hybrid Services (F10), the exclusive distributor for Mimaki printers and cutting systems in the UK and Ireland, will debut the new Mimaki 3DFF-222 3D printer at the show. The 3DFF-222 is intended to be an in-house design and production tool, ideal for parts such as jigs used in direct-to-object printing and tools for producing three-dimensional signage. “The release of the Mimaki 3DFF-222 is a marker in the sand for sign and graphics companies looking for a cost-effective way of creating jigs for direct printing using Mimaki’s desktop UV flatbed printers,” says Hybrid chief operations manager, Brett Newman. It will be available for sale from the end of April. “Flexibility and ease-of-use are key features of the new desktop 3D printer. It’s been developed so that you can have it sitting in your office without disruption,” states Bert Benckhuysen, senior product manager at Mimaki Europe. “Following the launch of our flagship 3DUJ-553 3D printer, Mimaki continues to explore opportunities in 3D printing,” concludes Benckhuysen, “Our new desktop 3D printer is designed to fit the needs of modern print production environments and it is suitable for a broad range of uses. The introduction of this product demonstrates Mimaki’s commitment to driving innovation and providing our customers with profit-enhancing solutions.”

I-Sub Digital (B2), based in Kettering, is partnering with Agfa and fellow wide-format supplier Josero. It will be demonstrating Agfa’s 3.2m-wide hybrid Anapurna H3200i LED along with the full suite of options in the Agfa Asanti production workflow.

I-Sub managing director Andy Spreag said: “We are looking forward to another great show. We have exhibited at Sign & Digital since 2005 and every year we see a development in the quality of visitors. Their expectations are getting more demanding of not only the quality of the machines themselves but also the quality of the finished print. 

“Our goal for this year’s show is to demonstrate the broad range of applications, the quality of output and the very low cost per print of the Agfa range, by using Agfa’s Thin Ink Layer Technology, while maintaining density and colour vibrancy.”

Roland DG (F30) will show off the latest addition to its TrueVis range of wide-format printer-cutters. The VG2 series consists of two models, the 1.6m-wide VG2-640, priced at £15,799, and the 1.3m VG2-540, which costs £13,999. 

“In developing the VG2, Roland DG have looked at every element of the original VG and made any improvements possible,” says Roland DG head of sales for the UK and Ireland Rob Goleniowski.

Sabur Digital (K10) will hand the first UK showing to DGI’s new Fabrijet dye-sub printers: HSFT III and the FH-3204 

The HSFT III supersedes the HSFT II as a high-speed textiles printer for high-volume work such as home furnishings. Sabur digital development director Aaron Burton says: “This is the third incarnation of the HSFT option, developed as a response to customers demanding faster production speeds, as well as greater print quality and reliability.”

The FH-3204 builds on the 3.2m FT-3204X dye-sub printer, taking it to industrial production levels. 

UK laser systems developer and services supplier ThinkLaser (A12) is unveiling its new Lightblade 3060, a desktop laser cutting and engraving machine with a 40W CO2 laser source and 300x600mm bed size. It is also unveiling the LightScribe fibre laser marking and engraving device. 

New exhibitor Premier Paper will launch its new Premier Paper Sign and Display product range, with the promise of “world-leading delivery, pricing and support”. 

Other names new to the show include CTR Lasers, Liquid Lens Systems, Trade Sign Shop, UK Feather Flags, UK Industrial Tapes and Viscom LEDs & Frames. 

“We are a trade event where the industry gets together ‘to do business’; and doing business ‘face to face’ has never been more important as it is today. It is so crucial to build that relationship with your suppliers and spend quality time with them to get the best possible advice on your next investment,” says Blackett.

“We are very proud to be the organisers of this very popular event. The show has a rich history that has played a valuable role in tracking and leading the industry’s progress and development,” he concludes. 

Mainstage seminar programme

The show organisers have curated a programme that is intended to offer practical information and advice that can help you grow your business. At the end of each day’s programme there will also be a review session, outlining the main takeaways, as well as a show round-up review at the end of the final day.

2 April

11:00-11:45 Anyone can do it – awakening the entrepreneur within

Keynote address and Q&A with Sahar Hashemi OBE, entrepreneur and co-founder of Coffee Republic, one of the UK’s most inspirational female entrepreneurs and a powerful speaker on innovation and entrepreneurialism.

12:00-12:45 Signage for buildings and interiors

Digital printing has opened up a host of possibilities, particularly around interior decorating. Wall coverings, art, window and floor displays, and much more are available to architects and designers 

Speakers Chris Green, head of Visual Communications, Antalis; Lindsay Appleton, architectural marketing manager, William Smith Group; Phil McMullin, sales manager ProGraphics, Epson (UK)

13:00-13:45 Textiles

Printing onto textiles is one of the fastest growing and most exciting areas of the digital printing market. Companies from the cutting edge of this industry will talk about their experiences, the opportunities and their visions for the future

Chair:Berni Raeside, director at Raeside Creatives

Speakers will include Stuart Maclaren, group CEO, YPP Group

14:00-14:45 Focus on finishing: laminating, cutting and more

The finishing process is often where the magic (and the profit) happens. In this session, some of the sector’s leading providers of products, services and solutions will explain how this market has developed and what is available to help you grow your finishing business opportunities

Chair Colin Gillman, industry consultant

Speakers will include Allan Ashman, managing director, Atech; Wim Maes, executive director and CCO, Summa

3 April

11:00-11:45 Focus on personalisation

This session will focus on the latest in this fast growing and rapidly developing technology, including the broad range of opportunities to build a vibrant, profitable business in personalisation

Chair Colin Gillman, industry consultant

Speakers Alex Granat, Livewire Consultancy; Brett Newman, chief operating manager, Hybrid Services; Stuart Maclaren, group CEO, YPP Group

12:00-12:45 The path for commercial printers into wide-format

As more and more commercial printing companies invest in wide-format printing, it creates the potential for these companies to enter new markets. The presentation looks at the business case for investment and what should be considered when making this move

Chair Brendan Perring, general manager, IPIA

Speaker Bobby Grauf, inkjet sales manager, Agfa UK and Ireland

13:00-13:45 Industry focus – retail

A look at some of the technologies and strategies that are leading the way in modern retail and how sign-makers can adapt to meet these demands of this key market

Chair Frazer Chesterman, industry consultant

Speaker James Beattie, CEO and founder, Xanita

14:00-15:15 The business case for sustainability and the environment

A seminar and panel discussion with manufacturers and suppliers about the sustainable products and strategies that make good business sense in the print and signage industry

Chair:Colin Gillman, industry consultant

Speakers Chris Green, head of visual communications, Antalis; Phil McMullin, sales manager ProGraphics, Epson (UK)

4 April

11:00-11:45 Focus on digital signage

A panel discussion looking the challenges faced in setting up networks of digital screens

Chair Christopher Rushton, publisher, Kapow Network

Speaker Richard Padum, IMG

12:00-12:45 The print workflow (part 1): colour management and RIPs

Colour remains one of the key points of contention for sign-makers and graphics printers. Range, accuracy, consistency – so much to consider and very low margin for error. 

Chair Colin Gillman, industry consultant

Speakers David Evans, senior product manager, Cadlink Technology Corporation; Graham Clark, application specialist, Agfa UK and Ireland; Jan Edgecombe, Revolution Digital; Paul Bromley, new business manager, GMG

13:00-13:45 The print workflow (part 2): managing your business

This session will look at the software products out there to help you achieve all you want to do while simultaneously keeping down costs

Speakers Andy Allister, Clarity; Dan Tyler, managing director, VISM

Signmakers’ Workshop

New for the 2019 edition is the “super-sized” Signmakers’ Workshop, intended to provide newbies to the sector with all the skills they need to get started, as well as top tips and tricks from signmaking maven Paul Hughes.

The four workshop sessions are repeated morning and afternoon over all three days of the show, so there really is no excuse to miss out if you’re looking to get into signmaking.


How many ways to make a sign?

This session will demonstrate 14 different popular sign styles and techniques. During the course of the three days of the show the sign will build up to reveal the final sign that will reflect the diversity of today’s sign industry. During each session one or two letters/elements will be added and demonstrations on how they were made.

Basic application of vinyl lettering

Learn the basics of applying vinyl graphics and what vinyls and techniques to use when and where.

Applying large areas of vinyl

Learn the basics of applying large area of vinyl, be it a digital print or plain coloured film to boards and glass

Making and fitting a signboard

Most vinyl graphics have to be applied to something, if not a vehicle then it is probably a signboard. Find out how and from what to make them from and how to fit them.


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